Elizabeth Montagu
and the Bluestocking Circle
         is Funded by the AHRC

Elizabeth Montagu Letters


Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800) was famous in her lifetime as a Shakespeare critic, salon hostess and champion of womens writing. 

Christened "Queen of the Bluestockings" by Samuel Johnson, Montagu attracted the leading writers, politicians and artists of her day to her sparkling London assemblies, where she placed a new emphasis on conversation as a pleasurable and enlightened pursuit. Her guests included Joshua Reynolds, George, Lord Lyttelton, David and Eva Garrick, William Pulteney, Earl of Bath, Horace Walpole, Edmund Burke, Elizabeth Carter and Samuel Johnson, and later Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Hannah More and Fanny Burney.

In her richly decorated London homes, Montagu aimed to bring together sensual and intellectual pleasure, and to allow talents of many kinds to flourish. Her salon became sought out as a shrine that was supposedly free from the party politics that dominated court culture. Here Montagu nurtured a rising generation of metropolitan intellectuals, writers and artists. She was a public figure within eighteenth-century culture, whose achievements not only illuminate the history of several important aspects (and locations) of her age but also bring together a number of connected lives. She placed herself at the heart of several important networks of the age, with the ability to bestow favour in a regal manner.

As she wrote in a letter to her fellow bluestocking hostess Mrs Vesey in 1781, We have lived with the wisest, the best, and the most celebrated men of our Times, and with some of the best, most accomplished, most learned Women of any times. (MO 6566, Sep 21, 1781, Elizabeth Montagu to Elizabeth Vesey, Huntington Library).

CALL FOR PAPERS! - Physical Archives in a Digital Age

Chawton House, 13 April 2015

Keynote Speaker: Professor Caroline Franklin

The number of digital resources devoted to British women’s writing continues to expand at a staggering rate, with access to digitized textual material by women, and great stores of biographical and bibliographical data about them and their publications, growing by the day. This conference provides an opportunity to explore the transformation our relation to books and physical archives in an increasingly digital age. 

Deadline for abstracts 30th January 2015. 

For further details see the entry in our News section.









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Bluestocking Circle

The Bluestocking Circle was a group of writers, artists and thinkers who met in the London homes of Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen. These fashionable hostesses invented a new kind of informal sociability and nurtured a sense of intellectual community. The term "bluestocking" evolved from the scholar Benjamin Stillingfleet's decision to abandon formal evening dress and obey Vesey's call to "Come in your blue stockings." Guests included the leading literary, political and cultural figures of the day, including Elizabeth Carter, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, David and Eva Garrick and later Hannah More and Frances Burney.

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